1 May 2008 Edition
Disturbing Bertie’s political peace
POLITICAL journalists in Ireland inhabit a very small world located at the south end of Dublin city centre. Among its more prominent locations are Leinster House, Buswells Hotel, Doheny & Nesbitts pub, the Shelbourne Hotel, an outpost in distant Donnybrook located in RTÉ headquarters, and various lesser-known pubs and dinner party venues.
It is not a heavily populated world. It’s made up of politicians and journalists who socialise and who, by and large, share the same values and concepts and make the same judgements. Political journalists, for example, believed Bertie Ahern would be undone by the tribunal revelations in the immediate aftermath of the infamous Brian Dobson interview on RTÉ Television.
In the real world, no one cared too much but among the political and media establishment once an idea is put forward it quickly becomes accepted fact and the journalists from the different papers function as a mutual admiration and reinforcement mechanism.
So, where am I going with this? Last Thursday, as Bertie Ahern shuffled off into the sunset, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD rightly congratulated him on his service to the state. He also took the opportunity to point to some of the less savoury aspects of his legacy.
Miriam Lord, in The Irish Times, suggested Caoimhghín’s speech was motivated by jealousy at no longer having access to Leader’s Questions and noted primly that his was the only speech by a party leader not to be applauded (I believe Caoimhghín still can’t sleep over the shame of it).
The normally astute Shane Coleman in the Sunday Tribune suggested Sinn Féin is still bitter about the election results and this motivated the “gracelessness” of Caoimhghín’s reply.
James Connolly once wrote that the only reason for socialists to take their seats if elected anywhere was if they “disturbed the political peace”.
In the real world (not the one inhabited by Shane, Miriam and the rest) people admire a man who stands up for what he believes. The only speech commented on in my hearing the next day was Caoimhghín’s and it was a positive endorsement from three people who have suffered at the hands of our health service.
Bertie Ahern was one of the greatest political leaders of his generation and a man without whom the Peace Process could have collapsed on many occasions.
He also presided over widening inequality, the disempowerment of the Irish working class and a health system whose inequities cost the needless deaths of over 6,000 people a year.
Making this point when speaking of his legacy is not ‘gracelessness’ or ‘jealousy’.
The political correspondents and the politicians can have the hypocritical backslapping and forced smiles over brandies in the Shelbourne.
STILL on Lisbon, the Irish media in general spent the early part of the week worrying about the prospects of a ‘No’ vote following a Sunday Business Post poll showing a dramatic fall in support for the Lisbon Treaty.
According to the Red C poll, the ‘No’ vote has increased from 24 per cent to 31 per cent, up seven points with a corresponding drop of eight points to 35 per cent on the ‘Yes’ side.
Concern at the possibility of a ‘No’ victory caused the editorial writers at The Irish Times (‘Darling, imagine the shame. We shan’t be able to show our faces in Tuscany this year.’) to weigh in with an editorial on Tuesday which contained a gem of true idiocy:
“The legal form taken by the Lisbon Treaty as amendments to previous treaty texts makes it sound more difficult for citizens to follow. That is not the case... Contrary to what the ‘No’ side says, it can, and will, be explained to the electorate. It is far less difficult than Bunreacht na hÉireann.”
Now I’ve read the state’s constitution. It’s about 60 pages long and written clearly and simply. A child can read it – and I was one when we went through it in school.
The Lisbon Treaty is almost 300 pages long and contains gems of clarity such as the following:
“Title IV shall take over the heading of Title VII, “PROVISIONS ON ENHANCED CO-OPERATION” and Articles 27 A to 27 E, Articles 40 to 40b and Articles 43 to 45 shall be replaced by the following Article 10, which shall also replace Articles 11 and 11a of the Treaty establishing the European Community. These same articles shall also be replaced by Articles 280 A to 280 I of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, as set out below in point 278 of Article 2 of this Treaty...”
I’m not worried about the fact that the Times leader writer hasn’t bothered to read the Lisbon Treaty. I must confess to being slightly concerned he or they clearly have no idea what’s in the Irish Constitution.
MEANWHILE, the Sunday Independent has started to reach out to previously untouched parts of the market. Last Sunday’s edition was the first in uncounted generations to cross the threshold of the Carney household.
Pa Carney was unable to resist the temptation of a double CD of Irish folk music though my mother made sure the paper itself was thoroughly burnt and the ashes buried at the crossroads.
Since the arrival of the Irish Daily Mail, Independent Newspapers has adopted a new-found sense of patriotism.
The Mail has much of the right-wing, neo-fascist, Traveller-bashing, immigrant-hunting views as the various Independents, so in an effort to distinguish itself the Sunday Independent in particular has rediscovered an Irish identity it was previously deeply embarrassed about.
It’s a delicious irony that a newspaper that called for the murder of the leaders of 1916 and regularly condemned Irish nationalists and republicans now relies on copies of The Foggy Dew to reverse declining sales.